« PreviousContinue »
one of the twelve Apostles, and highly distinguished by the favour of his holy Master. He was a poor fisherman of Galilee, and attended our Saviour during his whole ministry, from the time he was called to be one of his disciples. Peter was witness of all our Saviour's great miracles; he was present at his transfiguration; his sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane; his trial and condemnation; perhaps also at his death; and had the honour to receive a gracious message from Lord immediately after his resurrection, announcing that great event. (Mark xvi. 7.)-He was present when Christ showed himself for the third time to some of his disciples at the lake of Tiberias. Our Saviour then gave him the distinguished charge of shepherd to his religious flock: at the same time prophesying to him the fate he should afterwards suffer for his sake. And accordingly St. Peter, after maintaining the honour of the Christian faith, and prosecuting its interests with the greatest zeal and resolution, suffered martyrdom with St. Paul, at Rome, in the great persecution of the Christians already mentioned.
The three Epistles of St. John were written about the year 69. The first of them are addressed generally to the Christians under his care; the second to some pious female, who appears to have been a person of eminence; and the third to Gaius, who, we learn froin the contents, had rendered great services to the cause of Christianity.
The personal evidence of St. John has already been noticed when speaking of his Gospel. Having witnessed every fact which he records, and being the favoured disciple of our blessed LORD, every sentence from his inspired pen comes to us with peculiar authority. He is supposed to have survived all the other sacred historians, and lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, as CHRIST had promised he should. He died at a very advanced age, about 100 years after the birth of Christ, not long after his return from banishment.
The Epistle of St. Jude, the last which remains to be noticed, was written in the year 70. He was the brother of St. James the Less, already mentioned, and consequently the kinsman of our blessed LORD. This and the foregoing Epistles of St. John are extremely short, but are full of excellent instruction.
We come now to the Revelation of St. John, the author of the Gospel and of the three Epistles already noticed. This book was written soon after his recall from banishment in the island of Patmos, where he informs us he received the wonderful visions which were shown him in that solitary retirement. They must be read with solemn awe and reverence, suitable to the mysterious things to which they relate. It will indeed require more learning in the sacred Scriptures than we possess, to understand the whole design of this extraordinary revelation.
The language and representations are too obscure and difficult for such as have not given much time and reflection to religious
I shall only observe, that many of the prophecies herein recorded by St. John have since come to pass, and that in the present times, when national changes and revolutions of empires have become so frequent throughout the world, learned men have directed their attention with great earnestness to the interpretation of many passages in the Book of Revelation, which are considered as undoubtedly applying to the times in which we live, these prophetic declarations being intended as standing proof of the truth of the Religion of Christ, as the events thus foretold are gradually brought to pass.
In the history of our Lord, given by the Evangelists, such a scene has been presented to our observation, as cannot but have excited sensations of a very serious and very awful nature in our minds. We cannot but have seen that the divine author of our religion is, beyond comparison, the most extraordinary, and most important personage, that ever appeared on this habitable globe. His birth, his life, his doctrines, his precepts, his miracles, his sufferings, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, are all without a parallel in the history of mankind. He called himself the Son of God, the Messiah predicted in the Prophets, the great Redeemer and Deliverer of mankind, promised in the